NORTHBROOK, Ill., December 11, 2008 — Most everyone enjoys that first snowfall of the season … the beautifully covered trees, the peaceful quiet of the outdoors. But what happens if Jack Frost throws a curve ball and those few inches suddenly turn into a blizzard. Are you prepared? Underwriters Laboratories (UL) – one of the world’s leading product safety organizations — offers some tips to keep families safe before, during and after a severe winter storm.

The Calm Before the Storm

Winter storms can dump snow and sleet quickly and unexpectedly. Take the opportunity to prepare your home and family while the weather is sunny and bright.

  • Stay ahead of and informed about winter weather. Get up-to-the minute local and national weather information from a reliable source such as www.weather.gov.
  • Develop a storm safety kit. Recommended contents include: a first-aid kit, bottled water (one gallon of water per person/day for at least three days), flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food, a can opener, weather radio (battery-operated) and blankets.
  • Winterize your home to conserve energy. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic; put weather-stripping on doors.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
  • Develop and practice a storm safety drill. Families should practice these drills at home to ensure every member of the family knows exactly what to do and where to go should a severe storm hit.
  • Prepare your car. Check antifreeze levels, install good winter tires and maintain at least a half tank of gas. Place an emergency kit in the trunk that includes:
    • Shovel, windshield scraper, flashlight, road salt and sand, booster cables, emergency flares, extra warm clothing (hats, socks, mittens), and blanket.

During a Winter Storm

While it may be tempting to venture out and explore, the best thing to do during a winter storm is to ride it out in the safety of your home.

  • Electricity can sometimes be the first utility to be interrupted so keep candles and matches handy. But make sure to keep them out of reach of children and pets. Also blow them out when you leave the room!
  • If your heat goes off, only use alternative heating equipment (like an electric space heater) that has an accredited safety certification mark, like the UL Mark. This confirms that representative samples of the product have been tested and certified to meet UL’s safety standards.
  • Keep anything that can burn (i.e. drapes, furniture, tablecloth) at least three feet away from heating equipment, like a furnace, fireplace, or portable heater.
  • Drive only if absolutely necessary.
  • If going outdoors, keep dry and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Following a Storm

After extreme weather has passed, it’s no time to let your guard down about keeping your family safe.

  • Be careful when shoveling. Dress warmly and take frequent breaks. Do not overexert yourself.
  • If you are using alternative sources of electricity, never use a generator inside a home, garage, crawlspace, shed or similar enclosed area. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide (CO) can quickly build up and can linger for hours, even after the generator has been turned off.
  • Check on neighbors or anyone who may need assistance (like the elderly).
  • Tell children to play in a safe area – never in the street or on snow banks close to the road.
  • Avoid driving until roads have been plowed and travel conditions have improved.

While weather prediction is not an exact science, staying ahead of the weather, and preparing for it is the best thing families can do.